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Good Neighbor policy

File:Vargas e Roosevelt.jpg
Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas (left) and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (right) in 1936

The Good Neighbor policy was the foreign policy of the administration of United States President Franklin Roosevelt towards Latin America. Although the policy was implemented by the Roosevelt administration, 19th-century politician Henry Clay paved the way for it and coined the term "Good Neighbor".

The policy's main principle was that of non-intervention and non-interference in the domestic affairs of Latin America. It also reinforced the idea that the United States would be a “good neighbor” and engage in reciprocal exchanges with Latin American countries.[1] Overall, the Roosevelt administration expected that this new policy would create new economic opportunities in the form of reciprocal trade agreements and reassert the influence of the United States in Latin America; however, many Latin American governments were not convinced.[2]


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States periodically intervened militarily in Latin American nations to protect its interests, particularly the commercial interests of the American business community. After Roosevelt Corollary of 1904 whenever the United States felt its debts were not being repaid in a prompt fashion, its citizens' business interests were being threatened, or its access to natural resources were being impeded, military intervention or threats were often used to coerce the respective government into compliance. This made many Latin Americans wary of U.S. presence in their region and subsequently hostilities grew towards the United States.

FDR administration


In an effort to denounce past U.S. interventionism and subdue any subsequent fears of Latin Americans, Roosevelt announced on March 4, 1933, during his inaugural address that: "In the field of World policy, I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor, the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others, the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a World of neighbors."[3] This position was affirmed by Cordell Hull, Roosevelt's Secretary of State at a conference of American states in Montevideo in December 1933. Hull said: "No country has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another".[4] Roosevelt then confirmed the policy in December of the same year: "The definite policy of the United States from now on is one opposed to armed intervention".[5]


File:Gangs all here trailer.jpg
Carmen Miranda, became the muse of the Good Neighbor policy.

The Good Neighbor Policy terminated the U.S. Marines occupation of Nicaragua in 1933 and occupation of Haiti in 1934, led to the annulment of the Platt Amendment by the Treaty of Relations with Cuba in 1934, and the negotiation of compensation for Mexico's nationalization of foreign-owned oil assets in 1938.

The United States Maritime Commission contracted Moore-McCormack Lines to operate a "Good Neighbor fleet"[6] of ten cargo ships and three recently laid-up ocean liners between the United States and South America.[7] The passenger liners were the recently defunct Panama Pacific Line's SS California, Virginia and Pennsylvania.[8] Moore-McCormack had them refurbished and renamed them SS Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina for their new route between New York and Buenos Aires via Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Montevideo.[7][9]

The policy sought to redefine the way Americans perceived Latin Americans, while at the same time maintaining hemispheric unity. In order to accomplish this, Roosevelt created the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA) in August 1940 and appointed Nelson Rockefeller to head the organization. The OCIAA was essentially a propaganda tool used by the United States to define Latin American society, as they perceived it. The sister division to the OCIAA, the Motion Picture Division, was headed by John Hay Whitney, with the main intent to abolish preexisting stereotypes of Latin Americans that were prevalent throughout American society.[10] Whitney was convinced that “power of Hollywood films could exert in the two pronged campaign to win the hearts and minds of Latin Americans and to convince Americans of the benefits of Pan American friendship”.[11] In order to accomplish this, Whitney urged film studios to hire Latin Americans and to produce movies that placed Latin America in a favorable light. Further, he urged filmmakers to refrain from producing movies that perpetuated negative stereotypes. Historically, Latin Americans were lackadaisically portrayed as lazy, backwards and suspicious.[12] One film star that emerged during this time was Carmen Miranda. Used as a product to promote positive hemispheric relations, her films, including The Gang's All Here, explicitly promoted the Good Neighbor Policy. Also, the policy's cultural impact included the launch of CBS Radio's Viva América and Hello Americans programs and the Walt Disney films Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944).

By the end of World War II, Latin America was, according to one historian, the region of the world most supportive of American foreign policy.[13]

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Pamphlet describing Chile as a "tourist paradise" during the 1939 World's Fair

1939 World's Fair

The 1939 New York World's Fair was just the place to promote neighborly relations between the United States and Latin America. Placed against the backdrop of a growing Nazi threat, the World’s Fair was an attempt to escape from the looming prospect of war and to promote peace and interdependence between nations. With the fair boasting over 60 countries, with some coming from Latin America, this was the place to redefine negative Latin American stereotypes.[14] Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua and the Pan American Union were all represented at the World’s Fair. Each country seized the opportunity to showcase their country and to make it more appealing to those around the world, especially in the United States. In their bid to increase cultural awareness at the World’s Fair, the countries promoted tourism and strived to compare itself to the United States in an effort to appeal to Americans. [15]


The era of the Good Neighbor Policy ended with the ramp-up of the Cold War in 1945, as the United States felt there was a greater need to protect the western hemisphere from Soviet influence. These changes conflicted with the Good Neighbor Policy's fundamental principle of non-intervention and led to a new wave of US involvement in Latin American affairs.[2] Until the end of the Cold War the United States directly or indirectly attacked all suspected socialist or nationalist movements in the hope of ending the spread of Soviet influence. U.S. interventions in this era included the CIA overthrow of Guatemala's President Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, the unsuccessful CIA-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba in 1961, CIA subversion of Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1970–73, and CIA subversion of Nicaragua's Sandinista government from about 1981 to 1990.[2]

After World War II the US began to shift its focus to aid and rebuilding efforts in Europe and Japan. These U.S. efforts largely neglected the Latin American countries, though U.S. investors and business men did have some stake in the nations to the South.

See also


  1. ^ Rabe, Stephen G (2006). "The Johnson Doctrine". Presidential Studies Quarterly 36 (1): 45–58. ISSN 1741-5705. 
  2. ^ a b c Gilderhus, Mark T (2006). "The Monroe Doctrine: Meanings and Implications". Presidential Studies Quarterly 36 (1): 5–16. ISSN 1741-5705. doi:10.1111/j.1741-5705.2006.00282.x. 
  3. ^ Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (4 Mar 1933). First Inaugural Address. Washington DC. 
  4. ^ LaFeber, Walter (1994). The American Age: U.S. Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad, 1750 to Present (2nd ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 376. ISBN 0393964744. 
  5. ^ Nixon, Edgar B (ed.). Franklin D. Roosevelt and Foreign Affairs I. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. pp. 559–560. LCCN 68-25617. 
  6. ^ Lee, Robert C. (16 October 1956). "Mr Moore, Mr McCormack, and the Seven Seas". 15th Newcomen Society Lecture. United States Coast Guard Academy. Retrieved 24 December 2009. 
  7. ^ a b Grace, Michael L (19 October 2012). "History – Moore-McCormack Lines". Cruising the Past. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  8. ^ "Panama Pacific Lines finished". Time (Michael L Grace). 9 May 1938. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  9. ^ Vinson, Bill; Casey, Ginger Quering. "S.S. Uruguay". Welcome Aboard Moore-McCormack Lines. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  10. ^ Amanda Ellis, “Captivating a Country With Her Curves: Examining the Importance of Carmen Miranda’s Iconography in Creating National Identities.”(Masters Thesis, State University of New York at Buffalo, 2008),
  11. ^ Brian O’Neil, “Carmen Miranda: The High Price of Fame and Bananas” in Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community ed. Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sanchez Korrol (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005)
  12. ^ Data adapted from Public Opinion 1935-1946, ed. Hadley Cantril (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), 502.
  13. ^ Grandin, Greg (2006). Empires Workshop: Latin America, the United States and the Rise of the New Imperialism. Metropolitan Books. p. not cited. ISBN 0805077383. 
  14. ^ Martha Gil-Montero, Brazilian Bombshell (Donald Fine, Inc., 1989
  15. ^ 1939 World's Fair Collection, Henry Madden Library Special Collections, California State University, Fresno Jose

Further reading

  • Dallek, Robert. Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 (1995) excerpt and text search
  • Pike, Fredrick B. FDR's Good Neighbor Policy: Sixty Years of Generally Gentle Chaos (2010) excerpt and text search
  • Stuckey, Mary E. The Good Neighbor: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Rhetoric of American Power (Michigan State University Press; 2013) 376 pages; Explores the metaphor of the "good neighbor" as key to FDR's rhetoric in and beyond foreign affairs. excerpt and text search

External links

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